University of Johannesburg student-athlete Yane van der Merwe has set herself fresh goals after breaking the U20 javelin record at the South African championships in Germiston last month.
Competing in the F44 class, the 19-year-old para field athlete recorded a new mark of 26.56 metres to claim the gold medal.
She is now looking forward to the World Para Athletics Junior Championships in Switzerland from August 1 to 4 before trying to achieve the main goals she has in mind.
“My big aims this year are to qualify for the World Para Championships in Dubai in November, as well as next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo,” said the first-year BA sports development student.
After only beginning to compete in 2016, she has confirmed her standing in South African athletics this year, winning gold medals at the SA championships for the physically disabled in the javelin, shot put and discus events in Stellenbosch.
In the world para athletics rankings, Van der Merwe is ranked second in the javelin, third in the shot put and fifth in the discus.
Born with a club foot, Van der Merwe said her interest in athletics was sparked by a conversation with a friend.
“After she told my mother and me about it, we did some research and I began competing in para athletics towards the end of 2016,” said Van der Merwe.
“The class F44 means that you have a joint below the knee that does not function properly.
“For me it is my right ankle as I have only a minimum degree of function, meaning I cannot move my ankle in any way.”
The highlight of her career, she said, came at the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation World Games in 2017 in Portugal.
“I came home with a gold medal for javelin and a bronze medal for shot put, so that has been my biggest achievement so far.”
While she is proficient in three events, Van der Merwe said the javelin was her favourite.
“I have been competing in javelin since I was 12 years old in Grade 6. I competed at school level against able-bodied competitors.”
She added that she had been blessed with a significant support group.
“My family and friends, with all the support and love from their side, have been very important, while UJ have given me the opportunity to follow my dreams.”